A Colourful mind | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 15, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 15, 2016


A Colourful mind

I won't bore you with another regular Apple A Day article, where I tell you what happens when something bad happens to you, and you can take care of it. No sir, today's Apple A Day will be a lesson, learning about something pretty cool, if you will. 

On a recent trip to China, I came across an Irish journalist who told me the most fascinating stories. One of them was of a boy with extraordinary powers. He was bad at math and would constantly fail grade school. Until one teacher paid really close attention. I had heard of people listening to music as colours before, but this boy would see flashes of colours instead of numbers. He was, of course, recruited by an intelligence agency for his amazing abilities (no, no one treated him like a handicap. It was indeed a power.)

I came back home to research on the case and came across synesthesia- a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report a lifelong history of such experiences are known as synesthetes.

In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → colour synesthesia or colour-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently coloured. In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be "farther away" than 1990), or may appear as a three-dimensional map (clockwise or counter-clockwise).

Not much is known about how synesthesia develops. The first studies of synesthesia in children and its development are currently ongoing. Based on the findings that synesthesia is not a phenomenon of crossed senses but has the properties of ideasthesia, it was proposed that synesthesia develops during childhood at the time at which children are for the first time intensively engaged with abstract concepts. This hypothesis—referred to as semantic vacuum hypothesis—explains why the most common forms of synesthesia are grapheme-color, spatial sequence and number form: These are usually the first abstract concepts that educational systems require children to learn.

Although often termed a "neurological condition," synesthesia is not listed in either the DSM-IV or the ICD since it most often does not interfere with normal daily functioning. Indeed, most synesthetes report that their experiences are neutral or even pleasant. Like perfect pitch, synesthesia is simply a difference in perceptual experience.

Not many people can recognise conditions as such due to lack of knowledge and understanding. The lack of knowledge on conditions of the brain can contribute in deteriorating a child's development. For children and people with such conditions, we must remember that they need their own kind of grooming and nurturing, their own ways of growing up. And most importantly, we must remember that what they have is a gift. A gift given to them by God and it is one we all must cherish, like that boy's teacher from the story I was told.

Information Source: Wikipedia

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